Play it close and win at the end is a goal of the CSU volleyball team and on Friday night it got a match to its liking. The Rams swept the North Carolina Tarheels 3-0 (25-23, 25-23, 25-14) behind a dominating third set.
Close games are what Head Coach Tom Hilbert says this team needs.
“I think North Carolina played well. When you win close ones, those are good for your team. With this 25 point scoring, we’re going to see a lot of those, so sometimes our goal is to keep it close and win at the end,” said Hilbert. “We were able to compete well at the end of games and that’s a real triumph for us, so I don’t think we should be blowing people out.”
The Rams jumped out to a 10-3 lead in the third set and never looked back. It would get as close as 12-9, but the Rams put away the talented UNC team on a service error by the Tarheels.
“The third game I think they just kind of got their will broke,” said Hilbert.
The first two sets, however, were tightly contested and the Rams started the night in a 6-1 hole.
“We came out a little nervous and a little tight,” said Hilbert. “A lot of times after coming back from a road trip, the players are anxious to play in Moby, so it took a little while to get that out of our system.”
Seniors Mekana Barnes and Jaime Strauss started to get going in that first set and finished the match leading the team in kills with 12 and 15, respectively. Strauss said the crowd helped the team throughout the match.
“The crowd definitely helps us out a lot. It is better when people are cheering you on,” said Strauss. “I felt like I was in a good rhythm and was able to feed off the crowd.”
Feeding off the defense is what got the Rams the win on Friday, as they held the Tarheels to a .099 attacking percentage.
“Great job defensively, we were covering junk better than we ever have and we were digging the angle pretty well,” said Hilbert. “We’re playing defense at a higher level now than we ever did all last year.”
Hilbert especially liked the way the team worked the block.
“We’ve blocked better before but we did a good job,” said Hilbert. “That’s the best thing about our team; our greatest talent -the ability to point score because of our block.”
The Rams will have to be at their best with the block on Saturday night as they square up in the highly anticipated match with No. 8 Florida.
“I think we’re going to have to come out and play even harder than we did tonight,” said senior Ashley Fornstrom, who led the team with 40 assists. “Florida is not going to be a walk in the park they’re obviously going to come out and compete.”
After watching film of the Gators, coach Hilbert said he sees a very talented team that will be a tough match-up for the Rams.
We’ve seen some film and they are a very talented team with so many talented hitters,” said Hilbert. “They’re loaded. The only good news is they’re going to play 3-4 freshmen sometimes.”
The game is at 7 p.m. on Saturday in Moby Arena. For in-game coverage visit www.studentmediacorp.com/sportsblog.